Netflix's "Marianne" is a French series about a horror writer who thinks she's getting out of the genre but discovers she may not be able to do so. It certainly has some frights in it and, after watching a few episodes over the weekend, I'll watch the rest of it. But it also made me think:
Can no one make horror any more that's simply scary?
I've written about his before, focusing on movies. But these days, a lot of horror is being played out on TV, whether it's network/cable shows such as "American Horror Story," "The Terror" and "The Passage," or on streaming networks like Netflix and Amazon Prime with "Marianne," "Dark" and "Stranger Things."
I'm probably over-generalizing here, but most of the horror stuff I've seen recently on TV has its share of creepy, sometimes downright-scary moments, but it also has dragged-out scenes are more padding than plot. Yes, I know the idea is to reach deep into a character's psychological makeup, their horrible upbringing or the problems of their current relationships. Too often, though, it makes the show flabby.
Sure, I understand that over eight to 10 episodes a TV series must find a way to fill the time. "Marianne," for instance, devoted almost an entire hour to her past and her friends and her (attention, buzzword coming) motivations. When an episode is mostly exposition, you lose the momentum that may have been building with the fear.
The excellent German TV series "Dark" spends so much of its time hopping between past and present that it gets terribly confusing and kind of squirrelly. Not to give too much away, but a blend of past and present is part of what's going on. Still, a lot of the back-and-forth delves into psychology, old angers, lingering love. (As an aside, keep a notebook handy to write down who's who in "Dark," just sayin'.)
"The Exorcist" could be the scariest movie of all time, and it focused on a little girl being possessed by a demon. "Poltergeist" and "The Omen" are great horror movies with straightforward plots; no sidetracks. They're roller-coaster rides, not meant to make you think, just to make you react.
And when it comes to horror, the roller-coaster ride is what it's all about.
Contact Shawn Ryan at email@example.com.